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Chapters 11 - 15

Chapter XI: Nightgown

The new friends spend their second night together, periodically throwing their legs around each other (!). They wake up in the middle of the night and share another smoke in the chill of the night air. Queequeg decides to pass the time by telling Ishmael his life story.

Chapter XII: Biographical

Everything you always wanted to know about Queequeg. We learn that he is a native of "Rokovoko," an island that is not on any map (Ishmael comments, in typically philosophical style, "true places never are."). He came from a noble cannibal family, but desired adventure; accordingly, he snuck onto a Sag Harbor ship bound for "Christian lands," and eventually learned the ways of whaling. Now, not yet ready to return to his land and take his father's place on the throne, Queequeg continues to go from voyage to voyage ... and proposes to Ishmael that the two of them seek work together as merchant seamen.

Chapter XIII: Wheelbarrow

Queequeg and Ishmael leave the Spouter Inn, put their belongings in a wheelbarrow, and head for the dock to find a boat to Nantucket. A brief moment of cultural relativism: Queequeg recalls his first, ignorant use of a wheelbarrow, strapping it on his back instead of using its wheels. He then remembers an equally "ridiculous" incident when a traveling sailor in Rokovoko washed his hands in the islanders' ceremonial punch bowl. As Ishmael commented a chapter or two ago, "there is no quality in the world that is not what it is merely by contrast." Another episode on the boat to Nantucket gives further proof of the relativity of what is "civilized": after being mocked by an ignorant sailor as a "devil," the instinctively noble Queequeg rescues him from drowning. From that point on, Ishmael remembers, "I clove to Queequeg like a barnacle."

Chapter XIV: Nantucket

Ishmael and Queequeg arrive at the last stop before setting out to the open ocean, the strange "corner of the world" known as Nantucket. This chapter contains no action, but rather consists of Melville's typical descriptive excess: he claims that Nantucket is so sandy that "they have to plant weeds there," that "they have to send beyond the seas" for corks to stop oil casks, that "one blade of grass makes an oasis," that "people plant toadstools before their houses to get under for shade in the summer time." Nantucketers do nothing but go to sea, and have "conquered the watery world like so many Alexanders."

Chapter XV: Chowder

The two companions, on the advice of Peter Coffin, head for an inn called the Try Pots, run by one Hosea Hussey. Ishmael, quick to see bad omens, notes that the sign for this inn looks like a "gallows," but nevertheless they decide to go in. There they meet the boisterous Mrs. Hussey, who ladles them huge bowls of the only food they serve at breakfast, lunch, and dinner: cod and clam chowder. The two are satisfied, even though Mrs. Hussey doesn't allow Queequeg to take his harpoon to bed.

Browse all book notes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Chapters 1 - 5
Chapters 6 - 10
Chapters 11 - 15
Chapters 16 - 20
Chapters 21 - 25
Chapters 26 - 30
Chapters 31 - 35
Chapters 36 - 40
Chapters 41 - 45
Chapters 46 - 50
Chapters 51 - 55
Chapters 56 - 60
Chapters 61 - 65
Chapters 66 - 70
Chapters 71 - 75
Chapters 76 - 80
Chapters 81 - 85
Chapters 86 - 90
Chapters 91 - 95
Chapters 96 - 100
Chapters 101 - 105
Chapters 106 - 110
Chapters 111 - 115
Chapters 116 - 120
Chapters 121 - 125
Chapters 126 - 130
Chapters 131 - 135


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